Category Archives: feta cheese

Beef Gyros

gyro

I’ve always been a huge fan of Greek food. Regardless of the season the tangy Greek flavors of feta cheese, oregano and fresh dill inspire images of sun drenched Greek beaches. And this time of year, when the weather is especially gray and dreary, I find myself longing for a Greek Island getaway. When that isn’t possible, I head to the kitchen and cook up my own Greek feast.

These gyros, adapted from Peanut Butter and Peppers, comes pretty close to channeling the Greek Island experience. Here beef is substituted for the traditional lamb (which is also delicious but sometimes difficult to find). The meat is marinated in a lemon-oregano mixture which ensures that every bite is juicy and flavorful. As a finishing touch the entire gyro is topped with Tzatziki Sauce- the yogurt, dill and cucumber sauce that Greece is famous for.

So here’s to getting your own dose of the Greek Islands. Enjoy!

BEEF GYROS

For the Tzatziki Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 cup cucumber, diced small

3 tablespoons fresh dill, diced small

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 dash salt

1 dash pepper

For the gyros:

1 pound beef steak tips, cut into bite size pieces

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 cups salad greens

2 tomatoes, sliced

¼ cup feta cheese crumbles

4 pita breads

  • To make the tzatziki sauce, place the cucumber and half of the yogurt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  •  Add mixture to a medium sized bowl and stir in remaining yogurt, the dill, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
  • Add additional salt, if needed  and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • To prepare the gyros, combine the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Add the meat to a zip top bag or bowl, and pour marinade over the beef. Refrigerate for 1 hour up to 4 hours.
  • When you are ready to cook, set grill to medium low heat
  • Place the meat on the grill, (you can place meat on skewers if you prefer) and cook on each side for about 4 minutes or until they are done to your preference.
  • Let the meat rest for 5 minutes.
  • Evenly divide the meat on a pita shell, top with the salad greens, tomatoes, feta cheese and the Tzatziki Sauce.

Serves 4

 

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Greek Shrimp w/ White Beans & Feta

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

I love this fast and flavorful shrimp dish from Cooking Light. It is both light and satisfying and when paired with a crusty loaf of French bread for sopping up all of the tasty broth, it makes for a perfect end of the week dinner. It is so good that it takes me far away from the dreary winter weather we’ve been having and places me on a Greek island. One can dream……….

GREEK SHRIMP w/ WHITE BEANS & FETA

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup finely sliced fennel bulb
1/2 cup finely sliced onion
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
1 cup chopped plum tomato
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 bay leaf
8 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Heat a large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the oil, swirling to coat.
  • Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
  • Add the fennel, onion, and oregano; sauté 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • Add the tomato; cook 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the stock, beans, and bay leaf. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 minutes.
  • Gently stir in the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes or until shrimp pink.
  • Remove the bay leaf, stir in parsley and pepper.
  • Sprinkle feta over top.

Serves 4

Spanakopita

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I love Greek food but outside of Greece I find that its quality is hit or miss. When we lived in Virginia one of my favorite annual events was the Greek Festival hosted by the local Greek community. It was right in our neighborhood so we were able to walk to it to enjoy the delicious foods that was all homemade. Here in Belgium the Greek community hosts a similar event each June and we always attend to enjoy the food, music and dancing. Of course nothing rivals the amazing Greek foods we’ve had when we’ve actually been in Greece. Whether on the islands or the far northern reaches of the country, the food from local tavernas has been the best I’ve ever eaten. It is classic, comforting and unpretentious.

Inevitably, whenever I have a really good Greek meal I come home with the intent of replicating the food myself. I’ve learned that the key to the best replications is to use genuine ingredients that actually come from Greece. Case in point is this spanakopita which I’ve adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s Mediterranean Harvest cookbook. Spanakopita is a classic Greek dish and is always my test of whether a restaurant is good. If the spanakopita is good chances are the other dishes are as well. With its flaky crust and generous dose of spinach, leeks and feta cheese, this version is just like the ones I’ve eaten in Greece.

SPANAKOPITA

2 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed, stemmed and minced

4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing

1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, stemmed and chopped

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced

1/4 cup fresh dill, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups feta cheese, crumbled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

12 sheets phyllo dough

1 egg white, lightly beaten

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium high heat.
  • Add the spinach and saute, stirring regularly, until the leaves begin to wilt. This should take about 2 or 3 minutes.
  • Add the leeks and continue to saute, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly brush a 12 inch baking dish with olive oil. Set aside.
  • Place the spinach and leek mixture in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the parsley, rosemary, dill and thyme.
  • Add the eggs and feta cheese then season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir well until everything is combined.
  • Brushing olive oil between each sheet, layer 7 phyllo sheets in the prepared baking dish, placing them so that they overlap each other.
  • Scrape the filling onto the top sheet of phyllo then fold all of the sheets over the filling.
  • Layer with the remaining phyllo sheets, brushing with olive oil between each layer.
  • Stuff the edges of the phyllo into the edge of the dish.
  • Brush the top of the pie with the egg whites then using a sharp knife, cut 5 to 6 slits into the top of the spanakopita.
  • Place in the oven and bake until the top is golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes.
  • Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 6

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The whole pie

Grilled Lemon Chicken w/ Feta Rice

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Here’s a recipe adapted from Cooking Light that makes me think of the Greek Islands. Its fast and easy and since the chicken is cooked on the grill there isn’t any need to turn on a hot oven in the middle of the summer. A simple marinade of fresh lemon juice gives the chicken a juicy and tangy flavor. And while rice is always nice, the addition of feta and fresh basil brings an ordinary side dish to a whole new level. Plus the entire meal comes together quickly. What more can you ask for?

GRILLED LEMON CHICKEN w/ FETA RICE

4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 cups cooked basmati rice
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Place 2 tablespoons  of the lemon juice lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the oil, the garlic and the red pepper flakes in a large zip-top bag.
  • Add the chicken breasts, turn to coat, and let stand for 30 minutes.
  • Lightly coat a grill with non-stick cooking spray and pre-heat to medium-high heat.
  • Remove chicken from marinade. Sprinkle the chicken with half of the salt and half of the black pepper.
  • Place the chicken on the grill and grill until cooked through, about 12 to 14 minutes per side. Cooking times will vary depending upon the thickness of the meat.
  • While the chicken cooks, make the rice according to package instructions.
  • Combine remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and remaining tablespoon of oil in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.
  • Add rice to the lemon and oil mixture then sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper.
  • Add the feta and basil leaves and toss to combine.Serve the chicken alongside the rice.

Serves 4

 

Glazed Grilled Chicken Salad w/ Strawberries & Feta

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Spring has arrived in Belgium and while some days still call for warm and comforting food, others inspire lighter meals. And when that is the case salads are the perfect dinner option. This salad is inspired by  Cooking Light and is filled with juicy seasonal fruit, crisp greens and sweet and tangy chicken breasts.

For me, the secret to building a satisfying salad that can serve as a satisfying entree is a variety of flavors and textures. The chicken is glazed with a simple mixture of preserves before being grilled; if your dinner hour is rushed, you can cook up the chicken ahead of time. Alternatively you can use any leftover chicken you have on hand or even buy a rotisserie chicken to slice up as a topping. I am a fan of sweet and savory combinations  so this salad uses a combination of strawberries and fresh pineapple tossed with onions and peppers. Use whatever fruits and vegetables sound good to you. And because you build the salads individually you can add or omit toppings depending upon your family’s individual preferences.

GLAZED GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD w/ STRAWBERRIES & FETA

1/3 cup black current, cherry or seedless raspberry preserves

2 teaspoons salt, divided

1 teaspoon black pepper, divided

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

4 6 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 cups strawberries, sliced

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

4 cups mixed salad greens

1 cup thinly sliced orange bell peppers

1 cup fresh pineapple, cut into bite sized pieces

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

4 tablespoons sunflower seeds

  • Combine the preserves, 1 teaspoon of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper and the garlic powder in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring until combined. Set aside.
  • Preheat a lightly oiled grill to medium-high.
  • Brush both sides of the chicken breasts with the preserve mixture. Place the chicken on the grill and cook, turning every 4 to 5 minutes and brushing with more preserves until cooked through, about 24 to 28 minutes depending upon the thickness of the breasts. When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the grill and set aside.
  • Combine the oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar and remaining salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Place the strawberries and onions in a medium sized bowl and then add the oil and vinegar mixture. Toss gently to coat.
  • Divide the salad greens amongst four plates or shallow bowls.
  • Evenly divide the strawberry mixture and dressing over the top of the greens.
  • Add the peppers and pineapple to the tops of the salad.
  • Slice each chicken breast on the diagonal and place one breast on top of each salad.
  • Sprinkle with the feta cheese and sunflower seeds over the top of the salads and serve immediately.

Serves 4

 

Greek Chicken Pasta

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Who doesn’t love an easy yet tasty pasta meal? I know I certainly do and this chicken pasta dish adapted from the Noble Pig doesn’t disappoint. The chicken adds protein to the dish while the addition of spinach makes this a complete one pot meal. The feta and olives give the dish a Mediterranean flair. Depending upon what I have on hand, I’ve used both Greek and Spanish olives so simply choose one you like. If you are short on time or have leftovers, use rotisserie or pre-cooked chicken. Simply add the chicken in during the final step and cook until heated through.

GREEK CHICKEN PASTA

12 ounces spaghetti

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed

1 large onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

12 ounces baby spinach

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes

1 cup whole olives of your choosing

1 cup toasted pine nuts

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

  • Cook spaghetti as package directs.
  • While the spaghetti cooks, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  • Add the chicken breasts and tossing regularly, cook until browned on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Add in the onion and the garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the spinach, wine, oregano, chile flakes, olives, pine nuts, salt and pepper.
  • Drain pasta and return it to the pot.
  • Add the chicken and spinach mixture and cook over medium heat until warmed, about 4 minutes.
  • Transfer to plates and top with feta cheese.

Serves 4

Herbed Sweet Potatoes w/ Feta

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Plain baked sweet potatoes are nice but sometimes you just want something a little fancier. When that is the case, try this easy baked sweet potato casserole that is adapted from Williams Sonoma. Because the potatoes are sliced before they are baked, they roast up quickly. The salty feta contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the potatoes while the pistachios add a bit of crunch. So try this dish tonight; I love it served alongside simple grilled steaks but it could easily serve as a substitute for your traditional Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole.
HERBED SWEET POTATOES w/ FETA
4 large sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup pistachios, toasted
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
  • Place the pistachios in a small dry skillet set over medium-high heat. Roast until toasty and fragrant, stirring occasionally to keep from burning. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Peel and slice the sweet potatoes into 1/4 inch pieces. Place them in a 2 quart baking dish, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Toss well to coat.
  • Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minute.
  • Remove the foil and sprinkle the potatoes with the feta, pistachios and minced thyme.
  • Return the dish to the oven, uncovered, and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is browned and the potatoes are tender.
  • Remove from the oven and drizzle will the lemon juice.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

 

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